Tuesday, February 2, 2016

David Adger; Bagget Lecture 1

This year UMD is lucky to have David Adger as the Baggett lecturer. I here post his slide from the first. The series aims to clean up the flora and fauna that has grown up within minimalist theory, thereby muddying one of the key desiderata of the program, cleaning up the messiness of earlier GB theory. In other words, David's aims are theoretical in the best sense. The goal, of course, is to clear the underbrush (thereby enhancing explanation) without sacrificing empirical coverage, or at least too much empirical coverage. In the nature of the enterprise, tightening the theoretical screws will necessarily be accompanied by some apparent loss on the data side. Respect for theory, therefore, entails being ready to live with a few "puzzles," some of them quite challenging for at least a little while. The inability to live with that uncovered data point is the distinctive mark of a lack of interest in theoretical explanation.

David's first lecture starts off with a bang. He argues that we should do away with head movement. In subsequent lectures he aims to dump roll-up derivations and (a favorite of mine) sidewards movement, as well as parallel merge, under-merge (sounds like a cartoon character) and many other forms of merges. Here he settles with doing away with had movement.

The particular empirical application is v movement up the extended projection. He offers two main arguments against it and he bases the argumentation on a meta-principle featured in the earliest days of MP; that movement should have an effect on interpretation at the interfaces. As David buys CHomsky's idea that externalization is an afterthought, he takes this to mean that it should have CI effects. His first argument against v to T to C is that it has no such effects (or very few as he argues against the usual suspects).  His second argument involves word formation and how v movement doesn't deliver up what it promises, at least on one interesting G (that of Kiowa).

The question period was interesting and several people challenged several of David's arguments. The most interesting question, IMO, came from Howard Lasnik who noted that there are lots of apparent cases of A-movement that have nary an effect on interpretation. The two he noted were raising of expletives and idioms (e.g. there seem to be men in the garden. the shit seems to have hit the fan). It is not clear how raising in either case can affect CI. A similar observation can be made for all cases where we find obligatory reconstruction (e.g. fronting of predicates as in VP fronting in English where it has been shown that the VP must reconstruct to its base position at CI). The challenge is clear: it suggests the meta-principle that David relies on is a bit too strong.

I confess to ebing partial to David's conclusion (viz. that V movement is not a rule of G). In some of my own work, I noted that under reasonable assumptions concerning minimality, heads should not move (see here for discussion). I had to really wriggle to find a way to let it in, but there are ways. The little world sketched there, however, would be a nicer place were there no head movement at all. So, I hope that David is right.

There are two cases, however, that need further analysis. Clitic movement and ellipsis.

It is well known that clitic doubling obviates minimality effects. In other words, what appears to be a species of head movement obviates intervention effects that regulate syntactic commerce. How?

Second, there appears to be a correlation between head movement and VP ellipsis. So languages that move verbs high don't allow VP ellipsis unless the VP elided is moved out to a position higher than where the V sits. Takahashi has a great discussion of this in his old general's paper. I discuss it here in more detail.

David believes he can handle both cases. See his appendix for the first.

At any rate, a very nice and provocative first lecture. Can't wait for number 2 today.

Oh yes. These were taped. If I ever get these tapes, I will post them. For now, you have the slides.

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